zondag 30 augustus 2015

Karen Maitland: Company of Liars


Company of Liars has been on my shelf for a very long time. Not because it doesn’t sound interesting. That’s seldom the problem isn’t it? There are always too many other books to read.
The book has 553 pages of story, a 7-page interview with Karen Maitland and a glossary.
The cover is really beautiful.

“The year is 1348. The Black Plague grips the country. In a world ruled by faith and fear, nine desperate strangers, brought together by chance, attempt to outrun the certain death that is running inexorably toward them.
Each member of this motley company has a story to tell. From Camelot, the relic-seller who will become the group's leader, to Cygnus, the one-armed storyteller . . . from the strange, silent child called Narigorm to a painter and his pregnant wife, each has a secret. None is what they seem. And one among them conceals the darkest secret of all--propelling these liars to a destiny they never saw coming.”

                * SPOILERS! *

I didn’t think this novel anything special. It’s enjoyable but it’s not like I couldn’t put it down.
I really wanted to love it because I enjoy Historical Fiction and it has been a long time since I read something in the genre. But I just didn’t like it all that much.
The prose is very easy to read, the story is rather slow and too long; Maitland could have written the novel with at least 100 pages less. The story progresses very slow and the plot should have been tighter to be engrossing.

It does have a lot of details about daily life, superstition and the treatment of Jew, crippled people or people who were different in a way from everyone else. I liked that very much.

I hate it when the main characters goes on and on about how we will find out that he made the wrong choice or how he took the wrong road or how we will find out that it was all just the start of everything else that goes wrong. Luckily that only happens in the first few chapters.

Narigorm and Zophiel are strange, unrealistic characters. The others have more depth (although not all of them); the main character Camelot is especially well thought out. I enjoyed how every character had a story behind them that shaped who they are and how everyone is lying about it.

Their views on homosexuality and some other stuff are way too modern for those times.

I certainly felt I got a sense of how the Black Death rampaged in England and how people reacted to it. People turned to religion or superstition but mostly a combination of both. But I felt too disconnected to feel anything by the death of the characters. And that’s not good for a novel about this topic; I believe you’re supposed to feel sad instead of disconnected.

The ending for Camelot was just overly dramatic and ‘sweet’ and too much a happy ending after such a grim and dark novel. But then there’s the scary, horror-like ending too and that’s just too Fantasy-like to be believable in Historical Fiction. To rely solely upon supernatural elements was a huge disappointment.

One thing is clear; I’m conflicted about the novel and I don’t think I’d read another novel by Maitland.

Happy reading!